Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Quantum Door

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Title: The Quantum Door

Author: Jonathan Ballagh

Publisher: 2015 by Jonathan Ballagh (self-published)

Pages: 288

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Obtained: author gave me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Summary: A fence and "no trespassing" signs go up around the woods in back of Brady and Felix's house.  So, what would anyone want to do?  Find out what was behind the fence of course!  What they find is a fantastic adventure involving lots of cool technology and remarkable beings.

Thoughts:  This was a really good book!  The best part of the book was the unique worlds created by the author. I don't read many science fiction books, but I felt like these worlds were something new.  The book was reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because in all three of these books kids enter another world and go on a magical adventure where they meet beings that could be either friend or foe.  They have a mission to complete in this world before they return home.
     The main characters were presented right away and I felt I knew them immediately.  The other characters were introduced as they were encountered.  They had distinct attributes and all had believable personalities.  The only thing I felt that was missing was some quirk Brady might have, or some special interest.  He just seemed like your average fourteen year old.  He was well-developed, but I wanted him to be more interesting.
     The author's writing style was simple and straightforward, not wordy or flowery at all.  The technology was described in a way that non-technological people (like me) could grasp and actually understand what was happening.  The author wove the explanations into the story masterfully.  I did not have to reread any part to understand it.
     There was just enough description throughout the book so that the settings and characters could be pictured, but the author focused more on the action which I believe is perfect for fifth grade and up.  The story was not predictable.  It was great not knowing what was going to happen.  This is one of those books that can be read by almost any age and enjoyed.  Also, although it is a science fiction book, it has a really good story to it, so those that are not huge science fiction fans would also find it entertaining.
     Throughout the book, there are groups of 0's and 1's sectioning off different sections of chapters.  I am assuming these are binary codes.  I couldn't figure out any meaning from them.  If anyone reads the book and figures out that the numbers mean anything, please let me know!


Company: Teema Teas

Tea: Ginger-Lemongrass

Obtained: purchased

     I purchased the gift pack from Teema Teas.  Today I sampled the pre-measured pack of caffeine-free ginger-lemongrass tea that came along with it.  I cut open the package, ready to put the tea into my teapot and to my surprise, there was a teabag in the package!  It was a pyramid shaped bag that could be seen through.  Inside were long yellowish brown leaves, some yellow curly pieces and chunks, and some yellow leaves.  The scent was of lemon with subtle ginger in the background.  The dry tea was very pretty.
     I poured 12 ounces of boiling water over the tea bag and let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was a pale, cloudy yellow with a ginger scent.  There was still the lemon scent as well, but that was now more in the background.  There was also another scent mixed in that I just could not place.  When I tasted the tea it was of sweet lemon with a ginger background.  Again, that other scent / taste was still there.  I really tried to place it, but still can't.  The only way I can describe it is a corn oil taste.  The tea did not have an oily texture at all, it was just something I could taste.  It was not bad, just different.  If anyone tries this tea, please let me know if you can place the smell/ taste!
     My favorite lemon ginger tea is still French Lemon Ginger from Art of Tea.  Teema Tea's ginger-lemongrass tea was not bad, I just like the Art of Tea blend much better.  I did think the dry leaves and packaging were prettier in the Teema Tea ginger-lemongrass tea, but the taste is more important to me.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Luckiest Girl Alive

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Author: Jessica Knoll

Narrator: Madeleine Maby

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, May 2015

Format: 10 cd's, 11 hours and 50 minutes

Genre: fiction

Obtained: library

Summary: Ani FaNelli seems to have it all- a fantastic job, a perfect and rich fiance, a great figure and beautiful clothes.  But is this who she is?  Is this what she really wants?  When Ani's tragic, shocking past meets her present, what will happen?

Thoughts:  I started out not liking this book very much.  It kept my attention, was well written, had good descriptions, and had some good humor in it.  But, it was all about the perfect life of a mean person and it was really getting old hearing about eating, losing weight, clothes, and sex.  The book seemed pretty shallow with no freshness to it.
     By the middle of the book I realized that my first impression was wrong. It was wanting to know what happened in Ani's past from the little hints that got me hooked and kept me reading.  The novel ended up being much deeper than I first thought.  Also, the main character was developed in an interesting way.  Furthermore, there are some really heavy issues that are dealt with lightly.  The story was told in a way that the reader hears it from the main character rather than living her life with her.  I think this was a good thing for this novel since it had some really disturbing content.  The way the author told the story made it a good read, not a depressing one.  The author knows how to tell a story in a unique way.  By the end I decided this was a really good book!
     The narrator was great.  She gave the characters distinct voices and was able to bring out both the men and women's personalities with her voice.  The problem I had with the audio version was that the tracks were very long. When I lost my place by pressing a wrong button on my mp3 player, or moving my cd from the car to the house, I had to listen for a long time to part of the book that I had already heard to get back to where I had left off.
     This would make a great book club book since there is lots to discuss.  There is so much to like and not like about the story, the way it was told, the characters, and how the author dealt with societal issues.


Company: Perkse

Tea: Love Tea #8

Obtained: purchased

     I purchased the tea sampler from Perkse.  Although it took quite some time to arrive, I received 6 samples in brightly colored, good quality, resealable bags.  The tea was fresh and each tea that I have sampled so far has had a very strong scent compared to teas from other companies.
     Love Tea #8 is made up of long black tea leaves with dried flowers mixed throughout.  It has a VERY strong rose scent.
     I put 1 teaspoon of Love Tea #8 into my tea pot and poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was an orange brown.  It had a strong rose scent.  When I tasted the tea, I was expecting an overpowering rose taste, but this is not what I got.  It was a nice blend of floral and black tea.  It reminded me of spring, not perfume, which is what I was expecting.  This tea is definitely for rose lovers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Interview with Andrew Joyce

Yellow Hair is an American historical fiction novel about the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from 1805 through 1890.  Andrew Joyce, the author, based this story on real life events and people, even using their real names.  He tells the story through a white man adopted by a Dakota (Sioux) tribe.

With the recent event of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe' s litagation on the Dakota Access pipeline, I believe this book may be of interest to those following this current event.  Also, many American's were taught in childhood that the Wamponoags and Pilgrims shared America's first Thanksgiving together.  Over time it has been questioned why we tie Native Americans in with Thanksgiving since our treatment of the Native Americans was unspeakable and the relationship described in these stories is most likely false.  With Thanksgiving coming, and our thoughts on this, it might be a good time to read Yellow Hair.

Although I have not read his book, I am excited to have Mr. Joyce tell us about Yellow Hair and answer a few questions.

Me: Please tell us about your new book.

Andrew Joyce: Through no fault of his own, a young man is thrust into a new culture just at the time that culture is undergoing massive changes. It is losing its identity, its lands, and its dignity. He not only adapts, he perseveres and, over time, becomes a leader—and on occasion, the hand of vengeance against those who would destroy his adopted people.

Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and I use their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.

Me: What made you decide to write about the Sioux Nation?

AJ: The inspiration for the book came to me when I was reading a short article and it made reference to the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862. It also mentioned that the outcome involved the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. That piqued my interest.

When I started my research into the incident, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was documenting the entire history of the Sioux, who are also known as the Dakota, vis-à- vis the relationship between them and the United States.

Me: How much of your story is actually fiction?

AJ: I would say that it’s about 50/50.

Me: What was the most interesting or important fact you discovered when doing the research for this book?

AJ: There are so many things that I learned while writing Yellow Hair. But I guess the most important thing I discovered was that our treatment of Native Americans was so much worse than I could ever have imagined.

Me: What does it take to research thoroughly enough so as not to be criticized by historians and experts on the time period you are writing about?

AJ: I want to say that I learned the hard way how important proper research is. But it wasn’t really that hard of a lesson. In my first book, which takes place in the last half of the 19th century, I made two mistakes. I had the date of an event off by one year and I had my hero loading the wrong caliber cartridge into his Winchester rifle. I would have gone blissfully throughout life not knowing how I had erred if not for my astute fans. Both mistakes were quickly pointed out to me in reviews of the book. One guy said he would have given me five stars if not for the wrong caliber bullet mistake. I had to settle for only four stars. Lesson learned!

For Yellow Hair, I had to know both points of view, the white man’s and the Sioux’s. Getting to know the whites’ take on things was easy. There are many, many books (non-fiction) that were written at the time. I even found a book written by Custer detailing his strategy for wiping out the Sioux entirely. That was hard reading. Then I went looking for diaries and obscure self-published books written by the participants. Then it was onto newspaper articles written at the time; the archives of universities and historical societies were also a great help.

As to the Sioux’s point of view, there are a few books that were dictated to newspapermen years later by the Indians that took part in the various battles that I weave into my story. I found a lot of material from Native American participants of the Little Big Horn, written twenty to thirty years after the fact.

But I wanted to immerse myself in the Sioux culture and I wanted to give them dignity by using their language wherever possible. I also wanted to introduce them by their Sioux names. So, I had to learn the Lakota language. And that wasn’t easy. There is a consortium that will teach you, but they wanted only serious students. You have to know a smattering of the language before they will even deign to let you in. I had to take a test to prove that I knew some Lakota. I failed the first time and had to go back to my Lakota dictionary and do some more studying. I got in on my second try.

Me: What is your favorite part about the completed book?

AJ: The “twist” I put in at the end.

Me: Is there anything else you could share with us that would make us want to read Yellow Hair?

AJ: If you are at all interested in what is happening in North Dakota concerning The Dakota Access Pipeline and the treatment of the protesters, Yellow Hair will show you the genesis of that treatment and how it has not abated one iota since our first contact with the Sioux.

Me: Will you be writing another book? If so, what can you tell us about it?

AJ: The tentative title is Mick Reilly. It is about three generations of Irish whose patriarch immigrates to America in 1840. I know where I’m going with it, but I have more thinking to do before I say anything else.

Yellow Hair was published by William Birch and Associates on September 28, 2016. It is 498 pages.  It is available on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.


It is also available from Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and iTunes.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Racketeer

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Author: John Grisham

Narrator: J. D. Jackson

Format: 10 cd's, 12 hours and 45 minutes

Published: 2012 by Random House, Inc.

Genre: Thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Malcolm Bannister, a lawyer, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail.  He has 5 more years to serve, but has a plan to be released early.  Will it work?

Thoughts:  I have not read a book by John Grisham for many years.  I remember reading his books in the early '90's.  At the time, I loved his books because of how he combined the legal aspect and the mystery of what is really happening with action and suspense.  He also had likeable characters that were well developed.  I think I stopped reading his books because they always seemed to follow a certain pattern, and I just needed something new.  When I saw this book, I thought it was time to read another John Grisham legal thriller.
     This time around, the characters were not as likeable and some were not as well developed.  Also, I found some of the relationships between the characters to not be totally believeable.  Other than that, I was not disappointed because the rest of the novel was exactly what I expected.  The author still seems to use the same pattern and has the same writing style.
     The narrator did a terrific job with the main character.  He was able to bring the character to life and was able to make you feel the emotions the character would have throughout.  It felt like I was listening to a real person tell me his story.  The narrator was easy to understand and easy to follow.  He added a lot to the experience of listening to this story.
     If you haven't read John Grisham, try the older ones first.  If you haven't read him for awhile, you might be happy you picked up one of his books again.  Although this was not the best John Grisham book I've read, I really enjoyed it.  I'm ready for another one!


Company: Teema Teas

Tea: Moringa Green

Obtained: purchased

     I came across Teema Teas on twitter and decided to check them out.  They are a company that sells a variety of organic teas and participate in direct-trade.  Ten percent of their annual profits are donated to disadvantaged women.  Five percent goes to the woman owned plantation in northern Thailand where Teema Teas gets its tea leaves.  The other five percent goes to Grameen America which "helps women who live in poverty build small businesses to create better lives for their families".  They offer microloans (very small, short-term loans at low interest), training and support to these women.
    I wanted to order the gift pack, but it was not available.  I sent a message asking about it, and was told that it had been sold out, but that it should be back up online soon if it wasn't already.  I checked back and it was there!  The gift pack arrived within a few days.  There were six pre-measured envelopes of different teas in a burlap bag.  They also send an additional sample with each order.  The cost is $14.00 + shipping.  I thought this was a little on the expensive side since this is only for 6 cups of tea.
     I decided to sample the moringa green first.  I was not familiar with moringa, but the Teema Teas website lists that it has 4x the calcium of milk, 7x the vitamin c of oranges, 3x the potassium of bananas, and 4x the vitamin a of carrots.  I did a quick internet search and found that moringa is high in antioxidents, may reduce inflammation, and may lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
      I emptied the pre-portioned moringa green tea pack into my teapot.  The leaves were a mixture of long dark green and brown leaves that looked like they had been rolled, small light green leaves, and some grass and small twigs mixed in.  The leaves had a grassy scent, reminiscent of dry hay.   I poured 12 ounces of water, which had been boiled, over the leaves.  I let this steep for 2 minutes.  I poured the tea into my glass teacup.  The liquid was a medium yellow.  The scent was not strong at all, but smelled faintly of dry hay.  The taste was not as vegetal as most green teas, but it did have that slightly grassy taste to it.  There was no bitterness.  This tea was smooth, thirst quenching, and refreshing- delicious.  Lots of vitamins, minerals, and health benefits from something that tastes this good?  Wow! This is a tea I will purchase again.